1 Samuel 12

Samuel’s Farewell Address to Israel

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The reaffirmation of Saul’s kingship at Gilgal (11:12-15) was the final step in his installation as king. The event was a fitting occasion for Samuel’s farewell address as leader of Israel.”

        • Then Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you have said to me and have placed a king over you. Look, now the king leads you. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are with you. I have been your leader from my youth until today. Here I stand. Testify against me before Yahweh and His anointed. Whose ox or donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated or oppressed? From whom have I accepted a bribe to overlook something? Testify against me and I will return it to you.”

        • Bob Deffinbaugh, writing for Bible.org on 1 Samuel explains, “In this paragraph, Samuel places placing himself on trial before God and all the people. It is based, I believe, on Israel’s implied or stated charges against Samuel in chapter 8, which the people consider compelling reason for Samuel’s replacement by a king. Rather than tiptoe around these charges, Samuel brings them out into the open, publicly challenging anyone to successfully accuse him of wrong doing, especially in relation to his official duties.”

        • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes, “Samuel refers to the two reasons alleged by the elders in ch. 1 Samuel 8:5 for asking a king, (a) his own age, (b) the misgovernment of his sons.”

        • On the behavior of Samuel’s sons, Deffinbaugh comments, “In chapter 8, the Israelites draw attention to the conduct of Samuel’s sons. They accuse them of not ‘walking in Samuel’s ways’ (see 8:5), and these accusations against his sons are true (see 8:1-3).”

          • On this point Guzik points out, “In 1 Samuel 8:1-5, Samuel was challenged to take his sons out of leadership in Israel because they were not godly men. Though it must have been difficult, he did it. The words my sons are with you are proof; Samuel’s sons were simply a part of the assembly of Israel and not ‘up on the platform’ with Samuel.” Guzik then cites Clarke, “It is generally agreed that these words intimate [imply] that Samuel had deprived them of their public employ, and reduced them to a level with the common people.”

        • Guzik adds, “After the victory of Saul over the Ammonites in 1 Samuel 11, Samuel knew the nation would now begin to look to this king for leadership. Here he helped Israel make the transition from Samuel’s leadership to Saul’s leadership. Samuel made this clear when he said, ‘now here is the king’ and ‘I am old and gray headed.’ Samuel told Israel that his day was over, and Saul’s day was beginning…It is true that Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life (1 Samuel 7:15), but now that a king was raised up, his role would change and diminish. Samuel never officially “stepped down” from leading Israel as a judge but didn’t allow his shadow to eclipse Saul…In this, Samuel showed himself as a truly godly man. He was willing to pass from the scene when God brought up another leader. Samuel did not grasp onto a position when God wanted to change it.”

        • Guzik continues, “Samuel wanted it clearly known that it was not his idea to appoint a king over Israel. This idea began in the hearts of Israel, not in the heart and mind of God. God allowed it and directed its execution, but it was the voice of the people that prompted it.”

        • The Israelites responded, “You have not cheated or oppressed us or taken anything from anyone.” And he replied, “Yahweh is witness against you, and His anointed is witness today that you have found no reason to accuse me.” And they said, “He is witness.”

        • Guzik writes, “Samuel settled the matter. All parties agreed that he led Israel well. This is the second time Samuel mentioned His anointed in this passage, and the phrase refers to Saul, because he was anointed as king (1 Samuel 10:1). Samuel deliberately included Saul in all this to make the idea of a transition between his leadership and Saul’s clear.”

        • Then Samuel said to the people, “Yahweh, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt, is witness. Therefore, stand still, so that I may judge you before Yahweh regarding all of Yahweh’s just actions toward you and your ancestors.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “In 12:1-5, Samuel put himself on trial and was found innocent. In 12:6-25, he put the nation on trial and found it guilty.”

        • The same source adds, “Moses and Aaron were not self-made leaders but were appointed by God as leaders.”

        • When Jacob went into Egypt and the Egyptians oppressed them, your ancestors cried out to Yahweh and Yahweh sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. But they forgot Yahweh their God, so He sold them into Sisera’s hand, the commander of Hazor’s army, and into the Philistines’ hand, and into the king of Moab’s hand. They fought against them. Then they cried out to Yahweh and said, ‘We have sinned because we abandoned Yahweh and have served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But save us from our enemies now and we will serve You.’ So Yahweh sent Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel. He rescued you from the hands of your enemies all around you and you lived in safety.”

          • There are a lot of issues with the names listed in verse 11. Jerubbaal isn’t difficult. As the NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “Jerubbaal is another name for Gideon; see Judg 6:32.” In my opinion, the evidence points toward Samuel being the correct last name in the list. However, as far as I can tell, there just isn’t enough information to know what the original reading should be in the case of the second name above (Barak). The following sources explain the uncertainty:

          • The order of names as well as the names themselves are up for debate. NET Bible’s text critical notes says, “In the ancient versions there is some confusion with regard to these names, both with regard to the particular names selected for mention and with regard to the order in which they are listed. For example, the LXX has ‘Jerub Baal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel.’ But the Targum has ‘Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, and Samuel,’ while the Syriac Peshitta has ‘Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson.’”

          • Barak, Bedan, or Samson?

          • NET Bible’s text critical notes: “The MT has…(…’Bedan’) here (cf. KJV, NASB, CEV). But a deliverer by this name is not elsewhere mentioned in the OT. The translation [NET Bible’s translation] follows the LXX and the Syriac Peshitta in reading ‘Barak.’”

          • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers points out that NET’s text critical notes are not exactly correct in saying the name Bedan is missing from the OT entirely: “This name does not occur in the record of the “judges.” We meet with it only in 1Chronicles 7:17, as a name of one of the descendants of Machir the Manassite, but this Bedan of the Chronicles seems to have been a person of no importance.”

          • The same source notes, “The LXX. and the Syriac, the two most ancient versions, read, instead of Bedan, Barak. The letters forming these two names in the Hebrew are very similar, and a scribe might easily have written the one for the other, and the mistake might well have been perpetuated—at least, this is probable.”

            • HCSB agrees on that point saying, “…The Masoretic scribes of the earlier centuries AD were strict about preserving the text as they found it, even where they may have suspected an errant reading.”

          • The same source lists yet another theory, “The famous Hebrew commentator, Rabbi D. Kimchi, suggests Bedan is written for Ben-Dan, the son of Dan the Danite. that is. Samson.”

            • To this, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds, “…Kimchi observes that it is the same as Bendan, the son of Dan, that is, a Danite; and though he was after Jephthah, yet is set before him, because he was a greater man than he; and this way go the generality of Jewish writers…”

          • HCSB posits yet another option, that Bedan is actually the original, accurate reading, “…alternatively, Bedan was an otherwise unknown ancient Israelite leader…”

          • Samuel or Samson?

          • Pulpit Commentary objects to Samuel, “This is even more puzzling than Bedan. We cannot suppose that Samuel, who hitherto had confined himself to the old deliverances, would thus suddenly introduce his own name…Some, therefore, would read Samson; but this, though found in the Syriac, is supported by no other version.”

          • Ellicott’s Commentary or English Readers disagrees noting the strong external evidence for the accuracy of Samuel, “The Syriac Version substitutes Samson for Samuel, finding, doubtless, a difficulty in the quotation of his own name by the speaker. But the other versions uniformly agree with the Hebrew text, and in truth Samuel could well cite himself a signal instance of God’s loving pity in sending deliverance, conscious as he was of his own high mission. No judge had accomplished such great things for the people, and none had received more general recognition. It was a most fitting name to bring in at the close of his list.”

        • And when you saw that Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, was coming against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’- even though Yahweh your God was already your king. Now look, here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for. Look, Yahweh has placed a king over you. If you will fear Yahweh, serve and obey Him, not rebel against Yahweh’s commands, and if both you and the king who rules over you will follow Yahweh your God, all will be well. But if you don’t obey Yahweh, and you rebel against Yahweh’s commands, then Yahweh’s hand will be against you and your king.”

        • Guzik writes, “Samuel probably had the feeling, ‘Here is the king you wanted. You will find that he isn’t quite the king you need, but he is the king you wanted.’ Samuel presents Israel with an important choice. They were disobedient in wanting a king, yet God gave them one. Even so, if they would fear the LORD and serve Him, God could still bless them…Samuel put the choice before Israel. They made a wrong turn, yet God put them at a fork in the road. On one side is submission to God and obedience; on the other is rebellion and disobedience. If they chose the wrong path, they can trust God will not bless it.”

        • Now then, stand still and watch this great thing that Yahweh is about to do before your eyes. Isn’t it the time of the wheat harvest? I will call upon Yahweh and He will send thunder and rain so that you’ll realize what a great sin you have committed in the eyes of Yahweh by asking for a king.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “Wheat harvest took place early in Israel’s dry season (in May-June). In this period of almost complete drought, Yahweh’s sending of ‘thunder and rain’ at Samuel’s request would serve both as a sign of divine approval for Samuel and as a mild punishment for Israel’s sin, as rain is never welcome at harvest time. Specifically, rain at harvest time can cause what is called preharvest sprouting: Water is absorbed into the head of grain, stimulating hormone production leading to germination. The end effect is a lower-quality yield.”

        • So, Samuel called on Yahweh and Yahweh sent thunder and rain that day and all the people were very afraid of Yahweh and Samuel. All the people said to Samuel, “Pray to Yahweh your God for your servants so that we won’t die, because we have added to all our other sins by asking for a king.”

          • Guzik says, “Finally, Israel saw their sin of wanting a king. They saw it too late; if only they had realized it in 1 Samuel 8, when Samuel first warned them! Now they are stuck with a king, yet God can still turn it for good if Israel will repent and seek the LORD.”

        • Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all of this evil, don’t turn away from following Yahweh. Instead, serve Yahweh with all of your heart. Don’t turn aside after useless things that can’t profit you or deliver you since they are useless. Yahweh won’t abandon His people for His great name’s sake, because Yahweh was pleased to make you His own people. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against Yahweh by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the way that is good and right. Only fear Yahweh and serve Him with all of your heart. Think of all the great things He has done for you. But, if you continue to do what is evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

        • Guzik says, “Samuel would not minimize Israel’s sin. Yet, he did not want them to dwell on the sin of the past, but to go on walking with the LORD today.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Samuel was both intercessor and educator. Although this address marked the end of Samuel’s political leadership, he continued his spiritual ministry for some time (e.g., 19:24).”

        • On being swept away, the same source notes, “David later used the same Hebrew verb for Saul’s death (26:10, ‘die…in battle) and for his own possible death at Saul’s hands (27:1, ‘get me’). The warning would remain in force throughout Israel’s history as a monarchy.”

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